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Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus

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Autor:  Grut  22 May 2010
Tags:  Frankenstein,  Mary Shelley,  monster,  famous novel
Words: 1490   |   Pages: 6
Views: 591


"By the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs" (Frankenstein, page 58), an image of terror, a horrific event to strike fear into every heart from 1818 through to years to come. Mary Shelley's 1818 novel Frankenstein: the Modern Prometheus is a perfect example of the genre of gothic fiction. At the time it was written, images like this would completely terrify all who read it. In contemporary society, the reader sees this as an ordinary fictional situation to be in, but only when they interpret the language of the Romantic Era. This language is overly formal, so it detracts from the feeling and emotion Shelley is trying to convey. Frankenstein tells of a man named Victor Frankenstein (VF), whose goal in life is to create a super-being. The being turns out to be a monster, or a "demoniacal corpse" (Frankenstein, page 59), wreaking havoc on the lives of many. The events that followed the creation of the monster show how people will be punished if they play God. The events of the novel happen in a clichéd manner that is apparent only in modern day parodies of Gothic Horror. Frankenstein has become gradually less frightening as time wore on, and more relevant to present day happenings such as cloning and in vitro fertilization (IVF). Despite, and because of, all this, Frankenstein has become known as one of the most popular and well-known gothic novels in human history.

The popularity of Shelley's novel relies on the effectiveness and relevance of the ideas. Frankenstein is a very well known book, and is read and studied by several people around the world today. It is widely talked of as an icon of the literature world, being the book that ‘introduced the concept of scary' by following the genre and atmosphere of a gothic fiction. Shelley devised a fictional horror story that predicted the future of the world as she knew it. Through her famous novel, she explored the concept of life and death, just as we do today with the use of science and technology. Frankenstein is written effectively to bring forth messages that are important 190 years on. From the novel, readers can gather that Shelley is showing what she believes will happen to anyone who plays God. People are fascinated with the supernatural and reading these sorts of books as it gives them a sort of window or portal into the past. Through older books such as Frankenstein, people can explore history and see events from a different time, which fascinates them.

Frankenstein is written in the time of gothic fiction, from the late 18th to early 19th centuries. This genre was widely recognised in the past for its horrific and terrifying ideas, and is still used today. The two most prominent features of gothic fiction are mystery and terror, each of which Shelley has incorporated into her novel. All books of this genre explore the unknown, and the fear people have of it, by suggesting ideas and events that are new and unexplored. The gothic fiction literature style was influenced by gothic architecture and art, which was dark, mysterious, and sometimes observed as haunted. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find aspects of fiction that frighten the modern world, though things such as vampires, insanity and witchcraft are still among those that will give the younger generation nightmares. Gothic horror fiction is not as terrifying now as when it was first brought into the world. It has become so relevant, that we can now read a gothic horror story without the fiction. People may ask the question, ‘Has society changed, or are horrific events just more publicised?' as we can never know for sure in these days and times. Several aspects of the story Frankenstein, such as the events, are relevant to contemporary society, but there are some that are not as easy to understand or compare to our lives, such as the language.

The language of Shelley's novel conforms to the requirements of the romantic literary period. This affects its relevance, as in the modern day, it is more difficult to decipher what she means. Some of the words used have lost relevance, and the formality of speech contributes to the lack of emotion and feeling at crucial times of the book. "Alas! Life is obstinate, and clings closest where it is most hated." (Frankenstein, page 199) Victor Frankenstein exclaimed, wishing to be dead, when he observed his wife dead before him. The way this statement and realisation is portrayed gives it a form of fakeness and sarcasm in today's era. The confusing language of Frankenstein somewhat detracts from the storyline and its purpose; to terrify and enlighten people to an ‘upcoming event' in the future. By the time we have figured out what the text means, it is not as terrifying as it would have been. The heavy language takes away the surprise of the characters' reaction, and the fear Shelley wants her audience to feel. The language of the Romantic Era and the possibilities of modern science referenced in the book do not go well together, making it a kind of ironic contrast. The language contributes to the events a corny and unrealistic feel, as if a robot was living in the Stone Age.

The events in Frankenstein are portrayed in an overly gothic fiction way, adding an even more unrealistic feel to them. Every ‘meant-to-be frightening' thing about this book is clichéd; the settings, the events, and the characters. This view is only apparent to the modern day world, as in 1818 when it was written, the novel would have been more terrifying because of these things. The settings, characters and events emphasised the mood and atmosphere. When Chapter Five of Shelley's novel starts with "I collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing at my feet," (Frankenstein, page 58), the reader can almost imagine lightning, and a close up of the evil, crazed eyes of the monster snapping open. These cliché images make the story less terrifying, as it is not a new concept, it can even make it slightly humorous. A variety of modern events have affected Gothic Horror Fiction novels. Parodies are a major issue to Gothic Literature writers. When attempting a terrifying novel, they have to take into consideration the way they portray events. Parodies and mockeries of Gothic Fiction have rendered Frankenstein as a clichéd novel that is no longer terrifying. The way Shelley has written this has made it less frightening and relevant today than when it was written in 1818.

The relevance of Frankenstein continues to grow in contemporary society. Present scientific discoveries have aided Shelley in making her book easier to relate to today. Events that happened in Frankenstein can easily be linked to scientific breakthroughs such as cloning and IVF. Before Dolly the sheep was created, no one ever thought the creation of life would be possible. In the modern world, it is becoming increasingly more common to hear of these breakthroughs. Some aspects of this are scary, or scarier than Gothic Horror, because they are real. Happenings like these shock and terrify people more than when they threaten the way we live. Other aspects are not frightening, but are useful to the modern way we now live. Through the use of IVF, we can create the beginnings of human life, which were skills we had before, but on a less controllable level. The more we think about Frankenstein, the more relevant it seems to become to this day and age in which we exist. The creation of life through IVF and cloning depicts the development of technology as we know it. This is proof that one day, Shelley's ideas and fictional aspirations may be a reality. This, and only this, is terrifying about the Gothic Horror Fiction novel that is so well known today.

The novel Frankenstein: the Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley is more relevant today than when it was first published in 1818. Terrifying the reader has become obsolete, and a lost cause, as the relevance of the ideas and events that happen in Shelley's book have overpowered the original desired effect. To make Frankenstein more effective, she has ventured to the ‘road less travelled', and decided to write on a new and introductory subject, the exploration of life and death. This matter becomes more relevant with every new discovery, so instead of a gothic fiction book, Frankenstein is now closer to a realistic fiction. Shelley's novel terrified readers for approximately 30 years back in its early days of publication, though it has gradually become less frightening through its indistinguishable language, its relevance to contemporary society, and the cliché events of the book. Despite all this, Frankenstein has become one of the most fascinating and shocking novels of all time.


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